Gay marriage cake: Christian Institute seeks donations for Ashers Bakery legal battle
The public is being asked to donate money to help Ashers Bakery in its 'David and Goliath' legal fight against the Equality Commission.
A plea has gone out from the Christian Institute for funds to support the firm ahead of the court case in March.
Ashers - a Christian-run business - is being taken to court by the publicly-funded body after refusing to include a slogan 'Support gay marriage' on a cake ordered by a gay activist.
In today's paper the Christian Institute states: "We're supporting Ashers Baking Co as they face court for upholding marriage".
The full-page ad on page 15, featuring a photograph of Daniel McArthur, Ashers' general manager, continues: "The taxpayer-funded Equality Commission is taking Ashers Baking Company to court for refusing to decorate a cake with the message 'support gay marriage'.
"The Christian Institute's Legal Defence Fund supports Christians facing difficulties for holding to their religious beliefs in an increasingly secular society."
It adds: "Help us help Ashers and others like them."
The Christian Institute is a nondenominational Christian charity. Its website accepts minimum donations of £10 but it estimates the cost of fighting the Equality Commission will run to tens of thousands of pounds.
Simon Calvert from the Christian Institute explained that while it was difficult to put a figure on the cost of legal proceedings, "we can be confident it will run into tens of thousands of pounds for this particular case".
If the case goes to appeal the legal bill will run even higher.
"No matter how small or large the donation, we will be incredibly grateful. It will help us help people like the McArthur family," Mr Calvert said.
Although most of the Legal Defence Fund's work goes under the radar, the Ashers case has made headlines across the UK.
Mr Calvert claimed that the McArthurs were admired for "graciously taking a stand for the Christian faith".
He added that the Christian Institute had received thousands of calls in support of the McArthurs and when he recently addressed a meeting in Reading, west London, the congregation inquired about the Ashers case.
"They have sympathy and compassion for their plight," Mr Calvert said.
The Equality Commission has backed the complaint of discrimination following the incident at Ashers Bakery in Newtownabbey last July. The cake was ordered for an event to mark International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.
Ashers Baking Co was founded and is run by Christians. It is named after one of the 12 tribes of Israel. Following the completion of the conquest of Canaan by the Israelite tribes, Joshua allocated the land among the 12 tribes. To Asher - who were gifted bakers - he assigned western Galilee, (Joshua 19:24-31).